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Friday September 25th 2020

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“On Behalf of” or is it “In Behalf of?”

By Robert Albee

I consider myself a fairly experienced writer, though I wouldn’t call myself a “man of letters” or anything as strong as that. You might have caught my story when I tried for a clever headline entitled, Five Separate Suitors Seek Space in the Phillips Community Center in last month’s Alley newspaper. Two weeks later, I received a terse email from Crystal Trutnau of the Phillips West Neighborhood Association that was sent to me, the Alley editor, various neighborhood representatives and every Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner—indicating that I had falsely misrepresented the truth by stating “… the Phillips Community Partnership proposal…was submitted by Ventura Village on behalf of all four Phillips Community neighborhoods and other long-term stakeholders.” The email said, “Phillips West made it clear they were supporting Waite House and not part of the proposal submitted by Ventura Village on behalf of the 4 Phillips Neighborhoods. It should have been the 3 Phillips Neighborhoods. I read the proposal submitted by Ventura Village yesterday [August 5th]. Phillips West is included in the entire proposal without our knowledge. My Board is not happy having our organization name associated with something they did not approve. As I stated yesterday Phillips West did not endorse the Phillips Community proposal and had no knowledge we were included in this proposal.

I painfully realized that I had overstepped my boundaries both as a community organizer and as a writer for the Alley. I immediately responded with an apology. Then I thought more about the situation and decided to go to the dictionary. There, I learned a very valuable lesson: I was technically incorrect when I used the words, “on behalf” in my story and my submission to the MPRB and the Alley. Here’s what it says, “On behalf of… In behalf of… Usage Note: A traditional rule holds that in behalf of and on behalf of have distinct meanings: In behalf of means “for the benefit of,” as in We raised money in behalf of the earthquake victims. On behalf of means “as the agent of, on the part of,” as in The guardian signed the contract on behalf of the minor child. The two meanings are quite close, however, and the phrases are often used interchangeably, even by reputable writers.

So the rest of the story is that I correctly submitted this application ‘in behalf” of all four neighborhoods. When you track what I have actually done as an organizer during the past three years, you would have to conclude that I acted “in behalf” of the entire Phillips community, including all four neighborhoods. Let’s look at the record: First, much of my community organizing took place in the very building where Phillips West is located and people from Phillips West Neighborhood were both invited and participated in Phillips Community Center organizing events at the Center For Changing Lives. Representatives attended our Connecting the Dots events at this location and others participating included representatives from Kaleidoscope, Messiah Lutheran Church and Freeport West—all from Phillips West’s neighborhood. In addition, I attended each monthly Phillips West Neighborhood Organization community meeting as an invited guest of Phillips West to report progress in our organizing to ensure effective community involvement for the future of the Phillips Community Center.

When I was informed that Phillips West had decided to support Waite House’s proposal, I replied that Ventura Village and the other Phillips neighborhoods had done so as well. It is in our minutes. In fact, Waite House had appeared before Ventura Village’s board and made a direct request for support as they had at East Phillips (EPIC) and Mid Town as well. Strangely, they never felt the need to appear before West Phillips, yet West Phillips provided a letter of support exclusively without ever seeing the proposal the Waite House submitted to the MPRB. By the time Phillips West’s objection was raised regarding our proposal, it had already been publicly available for more than a month. As of this writing, nobody I have talked to outside the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has seen the Waite House proposal, including Phillips West people.

My apology to Phillips West still stands. I am not an agent of that neighborhood, but I am the secretary for Ventura Village neighborhood. Despite the fact that the dictionary reports that many writers make the same mistake regarding “on behalf” and “in behalf”, I stand corrected regarding my ignorance of that difference. But “on” or “in” does not nullify the countless hours of time that I and others have spent organizing all of the Phillips Community to embrace the realities associated with the reopening of the Phillips Community Center and our responsibilities for helping keep it open. It is up to those of us in the Phillips Community to demand and organize effective projects and programs that serve a wide range of people age-wise and cultural-wise. I would certainly rather be sanctioned for failure of accuracy than failure of action!

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